Wednesday 23 November 2011

Dangerously overscraped

Here we are: the lower reaches. Direct-to-video hell. It's the first time I've delved into the netherworld of low-budget, no-audience films: but considering the delectable stench of desperation surrounding I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006), I'll be coming back. In truth, I enjoyed the film: it's bad, sure, but it passes the time in an agreeable fashion.

We open with gut-churningly awful, nonsensically flashy shots of the annual Fourth of July carnival in Broken Ridge, Colorado, where we meet our meat: recent high-school graduates Amber (Brooke Nevin) and her boyfriend Colby (David Paetkau), Zoe (Torrey DeVitto), Lance (Ben Easter), Roger (Seth Packard) and PJ (Clay Taylor). Make no mistake: these people are the least likeable bunch of assholes this side of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and they're portrayed so poorly one wishes disembowelment upon them at every turn.

(If you compare the cast list to the poster, incidentally, you'll notice the young lady on the far left is not in the film. This is because the filmmakers Do Not Care, and are convinced - reasonably, I fear - that women who are not in the final product will attract more buyers than men who are.)

Anyway, the teens' forced conversation turns to the events of the first two films in the series, almost as if they were setting up a horror film. It seems that 'the Fisherman' (the name Ben Willis is nowhere mentioned) has become something of an urban legend, killing off young people with dirty secrets. (He is, apparently, 'like Jack the Ripper, except the guy never got caught', a line that suggests the writer possessed very incomplete knowledge of either the Jack the Ripper case or the series of which this film is an instalment.) And would you know it, a cloaked figure wielding a fish hook duly appears and chases the frightened teenagers around the carnival. Leaping off a building with his skateboard (!) to escape the Fisherman, PJ is impaled and killed. The rub: the Fisherman was actually Roger, in a prank planned by him, Amber, Colby and Zoe. They decide to conceal this and destroy the evidence, swearing that 'the secret dies with us'. Could it be foreshadowing?

Apparently so. One year later, the four return to Broken Ridge. In the meantime they've grown apart, as is series tradition. Amber is about to go off to college, while Colby, who has broken up with her, is taking up a summer job as a lifeguard. Roger fixes ski lifts, while Zoe is a rock'n'roll singer and guitarist (and therefore the most awesome & attractive of a bunch generally ranking low on both). When Amber begins receiving text messages of the 'I know what you did last summer' type, she begins gathering the old gang. Roger is soon found dead. Could it be the Fisherman? (Yes.)

Like the first two films, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (fun to type, fun to say) sets itself up as a mystery: who is the killer? Is it PJ's grieving father, Sheriff Davis (Michael Flynn), Deputy Hafner (K.C. Clyde), who clearly harbours an unholy crush on Amber, or Lance? Unlike Know and Still, however, the mystery in Always isn't insultingly obvious: instead, spoiler!, screenwriter Michael D. Weiss cheats, in the matter of Friday the 13th, by having the killer be none of these people. It's Ben Willis's ghost (played by awful CGI, and also by Don Shanks). Which doesn't really make a whole lot of sense: what, the Fisherman's eternal destiny is to slaughter groups of teens who conceal a killing on the Fourth of July? That seems an awfully specific vengeance demographic.

The answer, of course, is that director Sylvain White (lately of The Losers and Stomp the Yard) doesn't care: I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer is hackwork pure and simple. The director's detachment - or incompetence, perhaps - leads to the bungling of simple jump scares. The film doesn't have a scary bone in its body. It's sleepy and inoffensive, and although the despair and dawning realisation of one's entire career path mapped out in direct-to-video world, evident in the performances, is interesting, it's not, well, good. The surreal directorial flashes (dream sequences, moody landscape shots) add another layer of unreality. But I can't be angry with I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. It sets out to achieve so very little with its limited means that I'd rather pat it on its would-be slasher head and tell it, and its latter-day slasher brethren, to go home and watch Halloween.

In this series: I Know What You Did Last Summer | I Still Know What You Did Last Summer | I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer

No comments:

Post a Comment